Bruce Cassidy’s hours in the unemployment line should be few, given the estimable résumé he built in his five-plus years with the Bruins and the current openings for NHL bench bosses. It would not be a surprise to see him off the market as early as this weekend.
At this hour, a half-dozen other clubs are interviewing for their next X’s-and-O’s rainmaker, and a seventh, Florida, has yet to declare whether interim Andrew Brunette will return after the Panthers’ second-round mincing at the hands of the Lightning.
Cassidy has yet to speak publicly in the wake of his abrupt dismissal Monday by Bruins general manager Don Sweeney. He plans to connect with the media Thursday morning via Zoom.
Cassidy, like the vast majority of the Black-and-Gold fan base, no doubt expected he had nowhere to go this September but back to Brighton for the start of another training camp. Instead, in ways only Sweeney and team president Cam Neely can understand, he’s out of a pro job for the first time since his one-season tour as Trent Yawney’s assistant with the Blackhawks.
Hired as an assistant coach in Providence by then-GM Peter Chiarelli in 2008, Cassidy was employed by the Bruins for nearly 14 years prior to Monday’s pink slip. Such long stays with an organization are a rarity in today’s game, as was his 399-game regular-season stay behind the Bruins bench.
Of the 23 sitting coaches currently expected to be brought back for the 2022-23 season, only three will return with greater longevity (regular season) with their teams: Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay (715); Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh (507); and Jared Bednar, Colorado (454).
Cooper and Sullivan each won the Stanley Cup twice. The Avalanche are about to face either the Lightning or Rangers in their first Cup Final with Bednar on the watch.
Cassidy wrapped up here with a 245-108-46 mark, a .672 points percentage that exceeds all three aforementioned senior statesmen with their teams: Cooper, .650; Sullivan, .639; Bednar, .579.
As Messrs. Sweeney and Neely contemplate who is the next best fit behind their bench (Jay Leach?), a brief look here at how Cassidy might fit with the six or seven other teams in need of a coach:
The Winged Wheels finally ditched Jeff Blashill at the end of another bust season. Cassidy could be among GM Steve Yzerman’s top choices to try to reinvigorate the sagging Original Six franchise.
Keep in mind, it was Chiarelli long ago, in his days as an agent, who represented Yzerman in contract talks. As noted above, it was Chiarelli who hired Cassidy for Providence. All three are from Ottawa.
Any coach would want the Wings job after the stellar rookie performances of Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider.
Yzerman still has a lot of roster reconstruction ahead, perhaps most importantly in net, but Cassidy would have the two kids, with Raymond on the wing and Seider on defense, to begin the renaissance.
Another once-great Original Six opportunity that would be coveted by any bench boss.
Cassidy began his pro career with the Hawks, drafted as their first-round pick in 1983 as a puck-moving defenseman (only to blow out a knee the day of the draft playing indoor ball hockey back home in Ottawa).
If offered the job, it would be hard for Cassidy (or anyone) to say no, but it’s not a great time to be the guy behind the Hawks bench. Longtime franchise pieces Jonathan Toews (34) and Patrick Kane (33) are aging out, and management could decide it’s time to move one or both as part of a desperately needed franchise reset.
The sledding would be tough early on in Detroit. It would tough for an extended time in Chicago.
▪ Las Vegas
The Knights turfed Pete DeBoer at season’s end, and he remains another excellent coach looking for a landing spot. The market has Barry Trotz (dumped by the Islanders) at the top of the list, then Cassidy, followed immediately by DeBoer.
Plenty of good roster parts in the desert for a coach to inherit, though Cassidy doesn’t immediately come to mind as someone who’d want to be working off the Strip. But never doubt the attraction of a contract worth, say, $20 million over four years. He would be age 61 at the end of term and never in need of another payday.
As the roster stands, Cassidy would have the opportunity to work with Boston homeboy Jack Eichel as his No. 1 center. Keep in mind, however, Vegas needs to offload some salary to comply with the $82.5 million cap, and any and all parts could be reconfigured.
Beyond Detroit, the Stars could be Cassidy’s next-best fit. He’d be watching over ex-Bruin Tyler Seguin, dealt away by Chiarelli in Boston when Claude Julien was still the bench boss.
GM Jim Nill, another ex-Bruin, would seem to be a seamless personality fit for Cassidy, and the Stars have a lineup that is playoff-ready, very similar in some ways to the Bruins when Cassidy took over.
Perhaps most exciting for Cassidy, he’d be walking into a situation that includes 23-year-old Jake Oettinger, the ex-Boston University stopper, as a budding franchise goalie.
Rick Bowness, short-lived in his tenure as Bruins coach, left the Stars job at the end of the season.
From a geographical standpoint, it would stand as Cassidy’s easiest move. But, man, the Broad Streeters are a wreck.
They began this season with Alain Vigneault as coach, and replaced him in December with Mike Yeo. Now Yeo’s gone, along with star forward Claude Giroux, swapped to Florida at the trade deadline.
Just not much there there in Philly other than a lot of overpaid middle-of-the-road talent without a glue guy.
The next coach will walk in, however, with expectations again cranked high for a low-producing team. Again, money often dictates, but probably not a job for the likes of Cassidy, Trotz, or DeBoer.
Interim Dave Lowry has interviewed to retain the job, but it’s widely believed the Jets will look elsewhere.
The Canadian-born Cassidy might be intrigued to work back in the old country, and it’s a great hockey market in a fun building. But markets like Detroit, Chicago, Dallas, and even Vegas probably would be more interesting for the Cassidys and their two school-age children.
GM Bill Zito has yet to say whetherhe’s moving on from Brunette. If so, Cassidy will be on his list of candidates.
Of the jobs out there (if), this could be the best of the bunch, based on roster talent. The Panthers finished No. 1 in the regular-season standings, then sputtered in the postseason, including a choppy Round 1 series vs. the Capitals.
Brunette probably deserves a second chance. But it’s been a long wait for the Panthers to be relevant again. They’d be in far better postseason hands with Cassidy, who directed the Bruins through 12 playoff series.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.